Dec 12, 2015

Distress of Nations

Political Omens

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them with fear, and for looking after those things which are coming to pass on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luke 21:25, 26)

These are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God, towards the latter end of his life and ministry. He was on the Mount of Olives, itself significant in old testament prophecy, and his whole sermon show him fully in his character as "that Prophet."

It would be at the Mount of Olives that Christ would later assemble with his chosen disciples, after his resurrection, and would ascend into heaven in their sight, with the promise given by angels that Christ would return just as he has left. He left bodily and visibly and will return in like manner. This is the hope and expectation of every Christian. In the old testament it was said, in connection with the Mount of Olives and the coming of Messiah:

"Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." (Zechariah 14: 3-5)

If one interprets this prophecy literally, which seems to be the only way to interpret it, then this prophecy cannot be said to have been fulfilled at the time of Christ's ascension, for the topographical changes to the land of Israel did not then occur.  It is for this reason that many Christian expositors believe that the complete fulfillment of the primitive prophecy of Zechariah will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ, who will descend not only in the manner he ascended, but even descend to the very place he ascended.

Though some of the things that Christ foretold in the Olivet sermon have been and are being fulfilled, many yet await fulfillment at the time of Christ's second coming to earth to his glorious apocalypse. 

In the words of the text, Christ said that there would be "signs" in two geographical areas, one is in the heavens, in the place occupied by sun, moon, and stars, and the other "upon the earth."  It appears, from the text, that these signs occur together.  The signs that are taking place in the heavens, or above the earth, are taking place at the same time as the signs that are taking place upon the earth. 

The question to consider is what is it that is causing "distress" and giving "perplexity" to the nations towards the time of the end?  What is the reason for the great "fear" that will characterize the world community in the time of the end? 

It appears that the signs in the heavens occur first, and help to cause the nations of the world to be in distress, fear, and perplexity.  This is evident from the fact that it is specifically said that men's hearts will fail them for fear as a result of "looking after those things that are coming on the earth," things which result from the "power of the heaven" being shaken.  The shaking of the heavens, and the signs in the heavens among the sun, moon, and stars, begets the distress on earth.

Yet, it seems to me that we are seeing something of an initial fulfillment of this in the growing social, economic, and political problems that are increasing in severity to a degree never experienced in previous generations (at least since the flood).  We have all kinds of things that today worry the masses.  We have global terrorism, the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, of laser weapons and numerous advanced technologies that pose a threat to man's very existence.

People sense that something is coming.  They are building bomb shelters, storing food and weapons, etc.  Further, the things producing fear are not the result of irrational paranoia, because the things are very real indeed.

Men are realizing that they cannot save themselves, that they need a savior.  They put their faith in science but science is showing itself to be a sorry savior.  The world is destined to accept Antichrist rather than Christ.  God help us as Christians to witness to this distressed and perplexed world by pointing them to the one and only true savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, the king of kings, and to his promised return.

The Coming Babylonian Megalopolis

The future Babylon will be a major center of world culture, music, art, commerce, and trade according to Revelation chapter 18.  What is going on now in the land of Shinar, in the Euphrates river area, politically speaking, is all preparation for the rebuilding of Babylon.  Listen to the presidential candidates and what they are saying should be done with Iraq, with plans for its future, and you might see that we are nearer to the time of the Apocalypse than most realize.

Dec 6, 2015

Hardshell Evolution in Doctrine

In my many years of research into the history of that group that today calls itself "Primitive Baptists," I have discovered many things about the evolution in doctrine that occurred within this denomination. Today's Hardshells generally do not know that there has been any change in doctrine over the past 181 years since the Black Rock Address (1832). They unknowingly believe that what they believe today is exactly what the first Hardshells believed in the early 19th century.

When I was a young Hardshell preacher, and just beginning to be schooled by the veteran Hardshells about their history, I was told many things that I later found out to be false. This is also true concerning the numerous Hardshell histories that I had begun to read.

The first falsehood I was told was that the division among the Baptists that occurred in 1832, as a primary result of the "Black Rock Address," was because the Baptists at that time began to believe things that were new, things that Particular Baptists had not believed before, and that this forced those who supposedly adhered to the old views to declare non-fellowship with them, which created two groups, styled "Missionary" and "Primitive" Baptists.

Another falsehood that I was told is that all the Baptists were united in their beliefs, and that they all were anti missionary and all believed in Spirit alone or immediate regeneration or regeneration apart from faith via the Gospel.

Another falsehood that I was told was that missionary organizations, theological schools, and special religious education for the young, were all new things among the Old Baptists.

Another falsehood that I was told was that the division, or separation of the Hardshells from the general Baptist family, was doctrinal, over the issue of the means question (in regeneration) and over the extent of the atonement (over "Fullerism").

A few years ago I was shocked to find out that one of the more popular views among the first Hardshells of the early 19th century was the view that saw the new birth as being exactly like natural/physical birth, and that as physical birth has stages, so does spiritual birth. There is first the implantation of the seed, the origin of the child, then there was the time of growth in the womb, and then finally the birth of the child from the womb. This view I have learned is still the teaching of the old Regular Baptists and some Presbyterians, and was also the teaching of A.W. Pink. In chapter 52 under the title "Beebe-Trott Model" and chapter 57 under the title "The Original Paradigm" I documented how this view was an accepted view among many of the first generation Hardshells.

This view sees "regeneration" as corresponding to the implantation of the seed, the time in growth in the womb as corresponding to the time when a regenerated soul is under conviction of sin, yet in darkness, without Gospel hope, without conversion to Christ. Finally, there was the "birth," corresponding to the time when the soul is "delivered" from the womb of conviction and darkness and brought forth into the light of the Gospel, when the soul believes in Christ and is converted.

This view was promoted by elders Gilbert Beebe and Samuel Trott, mainly in only one of the four Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s, in the "Signs of the Times." A few writers in the other three Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s also promoted this view. Elder William Conrad of Kentucky held this view and he was a close associate of Elder Wilson Thompson who also seems to have held this view. Thompson was a close associate of Beebe and Trott and frequent writer to the Signs of the Times periodical. Further, in chapter 50 under the title "From Law to Grace?" I showed how this seemed to be the view of Thompson. This view of things was put forth well into the 1850s.

This view of regeneration and the new birth led some Hardshells of the 1830s to reason regeneration was immediate, apart from faith via the Gospel, while the new birth was mediate, through faith via the Gospel. Knowing this about the first Hardshells is important. Just because a writer of the 1830-1860 period may have affirmed that regeneration was immediate, does not mean that he denied that the new birth was likewise immediate, nor does it mean that he denied that one had to be converted as well as regenerated to be finally saved in heaven. In fact, as I have shown in my book "The Hardshell Baptist Cult," the oldest articles of faith of the Hardshell churches all say that they believe that all the elect will be "regenerated AND converted."

In the other periodicals, especially that of "The Primitive Baptist," however, this view does not appear to be generally promoted, the writers in this periodical generally making no distinction between regeneration and conversion, and affirming that regeneration was accomplished through the means of the Gospel. Elder John Watson, who helped put out and write for the "Old Baptist Banner" seemed to believe as did the writers in the "Primitive Baptist" periodical. Further, the writers in "The Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor" also seemed to identify conversion with regeneration.

These historical discoveries led me to do further research into exactly how and when the Hardshell denomination took on its present doctrinal stand, when it comepletely denied that regeneration or the new birth was accomplished by the Gospel, and denied that faith in Christ was necessary to be finally saved in heaven.

Around 1890 there was a watershed event dealing with this question of means in regeneration and the new birth. The Mt. Carmel Old School or Regular Baptist church (Luray, Virginia) divided over this question along with the issue of having bible classes and Sunday Schools. This division occurred at the time of Elder John Clark's death who lived in the area and who was editor (since its beginning in 1852 or 1854) of the Hardshell periodical "Zion's Advocate." He lived in Luray. He was a major leader among the Hardshells, and outspoken opponent of Beebe and Trott, who he opposed for holding to Sabellianism, Arianism, and to the eternal children doctrine of Daniel Parker, as well as some of their other errors.

Elder Clark's writings are generally not available on the Internet today as are the old issues of the Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s. Hopefully they will be reviewed by me sometime in the future. However, it is clear to me that Elder Clark believed that regeneration was accomplished by the means of the Gospel. He was a frequent writer to the "Primitive Baptist" and never wrote to that periodical to disagree with their oft advocating the means view. Further, I have presented evidence that Elder Clark affirmed the Gospel means position in the very first issue of "Zion's Advocate." However, I have seen some Hardshell web pages where Clark is cited as supposedly affirming that means were not used in regeneration. Now, something is amiss here. Did Clark contradict himself? Or, did he believe in the three stage model of the new birth, as Beebe, Trott, Conrad, and Thompson, and therefore advocated that initital regeneration was apart from means, but that the birth, or complete regeneration, was by means? Or, as I suspect, the citations that these Hardshells give wherein Clark supposedly denied the use of means have the infamous Hardshell ellipsis, of which I have written about in a previous post (see here).  I therefore suspect that the omissions in these citations are intended to cover up the real views of Clark on this issue.

It must be remembered that Elder Burnam, who was advocating the means view, and who was one of the leaders involved in the split in the Mt. Carmel church, and one of the persons testifying in the Mt. Carmel church trial that happened many years later concerning this division, was an associate editor with Clark on "Zion's Advocate."  It seems unlikely that Clark would have him on his editorial staff if he disagreed with Burnam regarding means.  Further, Burnam testified in the trial that he had proof from writings in the Advocate that showed that Clark believed in means.  This was denied, however, by those on the other side, men like Elders Dalton and Waters.  Dalton became editor of the Advocate when Clark died. Further, Elder Clark was a close friend to elders Watson and Osbourn who clearly taught regeneration by the means of the Gospel.

In the trial Elder Burnam said:

"It was left to the last quarter of the 19th century to give birth among the Old Order of Baptists to the notion of regeneration without faith, or that it is not necessary that one should exercise repentance, faith, or any spiritual gift, in order to be saved, a heresy than which none more pernicious was ever put forth by any professing to be followers of Christ."

Is Burnam saying that the no means view of regeneration/new birth was not promoted at all prior to the last quarter of the 19th century? Surely this change in doctrine did not occur in a vacuum or instantly, but probably had its advocates prior to this time. I was anxious to find out, to discover the causes of this evolution in doctrine.

There is little doubt in my mind that it was in the time period mentioned by Burnam when the anti means faction became the majority view and this led to a formal division between those who still held to the old view, the means view, and those who grabbed hold of the new anti means view.

It is clear that it was the overwhelming majority view of the Hardshells up to the time period mentioned by Burnam that all the elect would be converted, via evangelical faith. It is true that some Hardshells prior to this time were advocating that initial regeneration was immediate, without means, but nevertheless held that conversion was necessary for final salvation and was accomphished by evangelical faith. I suspect that it was the teaching that initial regeneration was immediate that led later Hardshells to deny a distinction between regeneration and conversion and to believe that conversion was not necessary to be born again or finally saved.

It must be remembered that the debate over mission organizations, Sunday Schools, theological schools, tract organizations, protracted meetings, etc., all came down to the question of the condition of the heathen who have no knowledge of the Gospel. How can they be saved if they do not hear the Gospel? This question was a problem for the first generation of Hardshells to deal with as they tried to give a defense for their opposition to mission operations. At first, they did not generally argue that they could be saved whether they ever heard the Gospel, but simply attacked the methods being advocated to bring the Gospel to the heathen. But, after a period of time, their arguments wore thin, and it became apparent to many of them that they would have to come up with a better apology in their fight against missionary operations. This they later decided to do by denying that anyone had to have evangelical faith, or to hear the Gospel, to be regeneration, born again, or finally saved.

In middle Tennessee Dr. R.B.C. Howell put out a paper called "The Baptist" (which was later taken over by Dr. J.R. Graves and who later called it "The Tennessee Baptist"). In this periodical Howell fought against Daniel Parker and his followers, who were strong in his area, and against his neighbor, John Watson. (Note: Watson also battled against the Parkerite faction of the newly formed Hardshell denomination) In Howell's paper, in the 1830s, Howell mentions how the Parkerite Hardshells were responding to the case of the heathen, and of their need to take the Gospel to them. Howell says that they were saying that they would be saved because they were ignorant of the Gospel, and since they never heard it, it was not necessary for them to hear it. If one heard the Gospel, reasoned the Parkerites, then of course they would have to believe it to be finally saved. Howell argued that such reasoning amounts to the heathen being saved by their ignorance, would force one to believe in wholesale heathen salvation, and that it would be better not to preach the Gospel to them at all.

Thus, it seems that the first ones to assert salvation apart from hearing the Gospel were the small Parkerite faction. This is substantiated also by elders John Watson and Hosea Preslar. Watson indicates that this novel view began with some among the followers of Parker, and Preslar, in his book "Thoughts on Divine Providence," as I have cited before, and who moved to middle Tennessee from North Carolina, in the time in question, also intimates that the anti means view as a peculiar view of the Parkerites.

My Experience with Cults

Over the past several years I have had many thoughts about my Christian experience, which includes my years (1972-1985) spent as a "Primitive Baptist" aka "Hardshell." I often wonder how things would have turned out for me religiously had I never embraced Hardshellism, becoming a member of a cult.

God is not to be blamed for my joining a cult, or believing doctrinal errors, though he has used my experience in the Hardshell cult to further transform and sanctify me. He is good at bringing good out of evil. Nothing that has happened in my life is a surprise to God. Had God willed, my past life could have been much different. I can also say that had I willed, my past life could have been much different.

I have had other experiences with two other Baptist cults, that embracing Campbellism, and with a local Baptist cult that is Sabellian, among other heresies. I have born witness against the errors of these cults. I want to believe that my labors in the word and doctrine against the heresies of the cults will be blessed of God for the salvation of souls, as well as for my own.

I believe what is taught in the Reformed confessions about God and salvation. I am Baptist because I maintain a belief in believer's baptism, rejecting infant baptism. I am a Baptist because I maintain that baptism must be done by immersion in the name of the blessed Trinity. I am Particular Baptist, maintaining the confessional views expressed in the 1689 London confession and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession. By this standard I call myself an "Old" (or primitive) Baptist.

I have had people say to me - "why do you bother with these little fringe groups when there are other larger heretical groups that deserve attention?" I cannot answer that fully. I can only speculate. My time spent in the cults (Hardshell cult for over ten years, and a local cult for three years) has made me an expert on those points of doctrine in dispute, on the beliefs and practices of the cults. Why should I not be an apologist against the beliefs of these cults? If but a few are saved from these cults, it will be worth it all.

Being in a cult is not a healthy good thing for Christians. Being in a Bible believing church, one that is not a cult, is what Christians need in order to grow and be preserved. Believing the basics of Christian doctrine, and staying free of heresies and corrupt doctrine, is what ought to characterize the Christian life and struggle.

My experience has forced me into Christian apologetics and God has used my association with cults, I believe, as a means of bearing witness to the cultists, and of increasing my understanding and appreciation of the Scriptures.

Dec 2, 2015

Philadelphia Confession = Hardshellism?

In his debate with Dr. W. P. Thorgmorton on the question "Who Are The Primitive Baptists" (1887), Elder Lemuel Potter said (emphasis mine):

"He (Throgmorton) says we have not the Philadelphia confession of faith in any of our churches or associations. He says they have. It is not so much a matter of concern with me as to who have it, but as to who believe it and preach it. That is the question we are here to settle. We are here to identify each other by what we preach and teach; to identify ourselves with the Old Baptists on that subject. Remember, that although the Philadelphia confession of faith is still a “Hardshell” Baptist document some of the Missionary Baptist associations fight it. That is, the doctrine it contains. Not only a few of them, but take the country over, a majority of their ministers today preach the doctrine of Arminianism, the very thing that this London confession of faith denied when it was first gotten up."  (see here)

Is there any Hardshell apologist today who wants to come to a serious discussion as to whether today's "Primitive Baptists" believe and preach the doctrines of the Philadelphia Confession?  If it can be shown that today's Hardshells reject the teachings of that confession, though once accepted by their ancestors, does it not prove that they are not "original" as they claim?